The night shift

Tuesday, 5 November 2019 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


Last night I walked the city streets alone.

Desperate for a sugar-coated cuppa, I made a b-line for the neighbourhood night kadey. It was 3.00 a.m and cold, and a storm had just gone by. Lines of street lights coated in droplets are mellowed in the afterglow of rain.

A motley crew had congregated at the kadey. A truck driver taking a break from an all-night run. A couple of well-dressed friends splitting a kottu after a night on the town. Three dogs seated outside, waiting for scraps of leftovers. Four drunken men in search of a cure to staggering before heading home to their wives. The bright lights inside kept us warm and accidently clustered together within the dingy walls of this particular all-night establishment. Is this how we come together as a city? With accidental meetings in the still of the night?

I stay longer than I need to, a second round of saccharine sweetness in hand. With little need for conversation, a silent camaraderie had erupted around us, connecting us in a rhythm of steel blades beating on an open oven-top in a ritual dance that manifests a plateful of kottu. Then silence again – interrupted by the cluttering of cup to saucer or spoon to plate every few seconds. A vehicle would drive by from time to time, only to be chased by our companion canines, their manic barks continuing for a full minute after wheels that had already rolled on by and into the darkness. 

Eventually I leave. But I might have left a part of me inside those paint-peeling walls. I feel most alive in the company of insomniacs. My people are night owls and lycans and vampire-like beings who have little desire for the light of day. There’s a kind of hush in the time between the setting and the rising of the sun. I wonder why more people aren’t awake at night. Or if they are, but don’t come out to play. Perhaps the night shift isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. 

As I walk, the only one left to encounter on this night is myself. Lights from buildings and hazy street lamps become my only company. A solitary 4.00 a.m. driver whizzes past, somewhere over the speed limit. A dog is curled up under a shed, shivering inside a dream. A gust of wind passes through, shaking leaves off branches and cascading them down and around me. For a moment I’m inside a fairy-tale, surrounded by yellow-brown leaves suspended motionless in time.  A beat. Then the rain comes crashing down again. I stand still, drenched. A thunder clap in the distance breaks me out of my trance. So I run like the little piggie in the nursery rhyme – all the way home. 

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